A founding member of the British rock group Oasis, guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher became as well known for his catchy, soulful songs like "Wonderwall," "Champagne Supernova" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" as for his often boorish behavior in the public eye, which included frequent brawls with his brother, Oasis singer Liam Gallagher. Detractors were quick to dismiss the act as lightweight rockers who borrowed openly from the Beatles and Rolling Stones songbook - and indeed, musicians Stevie Wonder and Neil Innes both successfully sued the band for plagiarism - but the simple fact remained that between 1995 and 2005, Oasis was the most successful music act in their native country, with 22 Top 10 hits, most of which were penned by Gallagher. But his ability to work within the group waned in the early new millennium, fueled in no small part by the increasingly aggressive interactions between the brothers, which spurred his departure in 2009. Gallagher soon launched a new act, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, while retaining his position as one of the U.K.'s most respected musicians, as well as one of the country's most dogged headline grabbers.
Born Noel Thomas David Gallagher in Manchester, England on May 29, 1967, he was the second of three sons by Irish parents Thomas and Peggy Gallagher. By all accounts, Gallagher and his brothers, including youngest sibling Liam, endured regular beatings at the hands of their alcoholic father. Peggy Gallagher and her sons eventually fled that situation, but Noel's teenaged years were still filled with turmoil, including regular truancy and six months' probation for robbery. During this period, he found solace in a guitar given to him by his father, with which he would attempt to play along with songs he heard on the radio. Following his expulsion from school at the age of 15, he began working at various construction jobs; an injury at one of these locations landed him a storehouse position, where he continued to hone his guitar skills and begin writing songs. In 1988, he befriended Graham Lambert, guitarist for the U.K. band Inspiral Carpets, for which he later worked as a member of their road crew.
Upon returning from a 1991 tour of America with Inspiral Carpets, Gallagher discovered that his brother Liam was performing with a band called The Rain. He immediately installed himself as key songwriter and lead guitarist for the group, which he subsequently renamed Oasis. A 1993 performance for Creation Records chief Alan McGee led to a six-album contract as well as a high-profile opening slot for The Verve. Advance press on the band was so intense that their first album, Definitely Maybe (1994) became the fastest-selling debut record in British music history. As Oasis began to skyrocket in popularity, Gallagher's reputation for contentious behavior, especially in regard to his brother, came to light in the media. A 1994 brawl between the siblings in Los Angeles led to Gallagher briefly quitting the band before Creation representatives talked him into returning to complete their U.S. tour. The tension between the Gallaghers only boosted their profile in the U.K. media, which anointed them the leading figures in the "Britpop" movement, which took its stripped-down sound from such legendary British rockers as the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks.
With the release of their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1995), Oasis was firmly at the vanguard of the British modern rock scene. Its second and third singles, "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back in Anger," debuted at No. 2 and No.1 on the British singles charts, with the former song providing the group with their only U.S. Top 10 hit. The Gallaghers celebrated their newfound celebrity status by indulging deeply in the perks of fame, from expensive houses to parties with such famous figures as Johnny Depp and Mick Jagger. Their penchant for rowdy behavior also doubled during this period, with Noel and Liam consuming vast quantities of drugs and alcohol and indulging in fights with fans, the press and each other. Gallagher himself displayed a particular knack for self-promotion, comparing his songwriting to the Beatles and Rolling Stones, with few, if any, peers, as well as a dismissive, often offensive take on other bands that earned him headlines throughout the 1990s. In 1995, he was the subject of considerable criticism after declaring that he hoped members of the band Blur, whom the U.K. media had positioned as Oasis' key rival for dominance of the rock scene, would contract the AIDS virus. His brother Liam, however, remained his favorite target, especially after an unpleasant row at a 1996 performance on "MTV Unplugged" (MTV, 1998- ) when Liam backed out of his singing duties at the last minute, only to heckle the band from a balcony. Shortly thereafter, Liam refused to join the band on an important U.S. tour, citing that he had to find a house with his then-wife, actress Patsy Kensit.
Despite these setbacks, Gallagher's cult of personality soon grew to include a slew of bands that borrowed from Oasis' sonic palette, including Ocean Colour Scene and the Boo Radleys, which were dubbed in the press as "Noelrock." In 1996, the band played before 250,000 fans at two sold-out shows at Knebworth House. Over 2.6 million people applied for tickets, which was the largest ever request for concert tickets in British music history. But Oasis' rise to fame proved short-lived, as both critical and listener response to their third album, Be Here Now (1997), was tepid at best. Gallagher himself began to succumb to the pressures of his lifestyle through drug-induced panic attacks that forced him to give up substances in 1998. The following year, the band shed two of its founding members, Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and Paul McGuigan, forcing the band to record its fourth album, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2000) as a trio.
Gallagher attempted to wrest some control over his career by launching his own label, Sour Mash Records, in 2001. Oasis continued to limp through the new millennium, weighed down by continued conflict between the Gallaghers. The lack of new activity from the band spurred Gallagher to take to the road in 2006 and 2007 as a solo act, though he fervently denied that he was leaving Oasis during this period. But less than two years later, Gallagher had left the group, citing the ongoing turbulence with his brother as the key factor for his departure. He played his final show with the band at London's Royal Albert Hall in 2010, after which he entered the studio to begin work on his solo career. However, he emerged in 2011 with a new band, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, which released its self-titled debut album that same year. That same year, he resumed communication with his brother, but dismissed claims of a reunion. In 2012, he announced a collaboration with the electronic group Amorphous Androgynous on an album slated for release that year.
By Paul Gaita